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Choreography of Jiri KylianChoreography


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#1 Balletaime

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 05:45 AM

For fortunate ones who have had the possibility of seeing Jiri Kylian’s choreography by NDT and us lesser mortals who saw the resent ABT’s staging of Sinfonietta and Petit Mort, or the provincial crowd in Boston who are to see Sarabande and Falling Angels, I would like to pose a question: Do you view Jiri Kylian as a modern or a classical choreographer? Why?
If you consider the two categories as too restrictive, how would you characterize his work?

#2 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 08:01 AM

He's a fusion choreographer. Ballet trained, but not working (at least at present) in the ballet idiom. I think it would be a major stretch to call him classical, he hasn't done a classical ballet in years (Maybe since Symphony in D?)

#3 sandik

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 10:15 AM

He's a fusion choreographer.  Ballet trained, but not working (at least at present) in the ballet idiom.  I think it would be a major stretch to call him classical, he hasn't done a classical ballet in years (Maybe since Symphony in D?)

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This is my sense as well, and it extends to some of his artistic descendents, like Nacho Duato. To my eye, they're reminiscent of choreographers like Glen Tetley.

#4 Balletaime

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Posted 17 March 2005 - 07:52 PM

He's a fusion choreographer. 

I'm unfamiliar with the term. Would you please define it. Also since you are doing a study on him, how does Kylian himself characterizes his style?

#5 jonellew

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Posted 25 May 2005 - 01:45 PM

I won't go into the definition of Kylian's work, but I found it interesting that Lesley-Anne Sayers wrote that his work "presents us with a potent dialogue between classical (and perhaps also Christian) ideals and the contorted angularity of modernism" (in 50 Contemporary Choreographers, p. 137). The more I though about it, the more I began to see and appreciate the Christian sensibility in his work (I'm not talking about liturgical dance or anything religious other than the sensibility that is perhaps a result of a Christian society). Of course, Kylian has ballets that are based on spiritual music, but I see the Christian sensibility as a pristineness of form and proportion, and as an innocence. Perhaps what I'm really thinking of is a European sensibility--?

Also, I have, sadly, only seen NDT on video, but that Boston performance Balletaime spoke of was quite good (surprised as I was) and true to NDT's performances of those ballets on DVD. There is a review of it in the May Dance Europe. The provincial audience, however, did not do so well-- I heard of several who left the performance after Sarabande (missing the last ballet, Forsythe's In the Middle). I guess this Puritan town just couldn't take a bunch of guys screaming with their pants around their ankles. Oh, but it was good.

Edited by jonellew, 25 May 2005 - 01:46 PM.


#6 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 25 May 2005 - 02:20 PM

The more I though about it, the more I began to see and appreciate the Christian sensibility in his work (I'm not talking about liturgical dance or anything religious other than the sensibility that is perhaps a result of a Christian society). Of course, Kylian has ballets that are based on spiritual music, but I see the Christian sensibility as a pristineness of form and proportion, and as an innocence. Perhaps what I'm really thinking of is a European sensibility--?

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Jonelle - can you illustrate what you mean here? I may just be using terms differently than you, or thinking of different examples. Most recent Kylian I've seen has been relatively dark, rather than innocent. I'm also curious what you see as pristine about his form - I'd agree he is in comparison to his descendants (Duato et al) but less so compared to more formal choreogrpahers (Cunningham, Balanchine).

All the best and glad to see a new face on Ballet Talk.

#7 jonellew

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Posted 26 May 2005 - 07:59 AM

Well, I certainly agree with you that Kylian's ballets are dark. I haven't seen his entire body of work, but I suppose the innocence I'm thinking of is most apparent in his humorous pieces-- Symphony in D, for example, and Six Dances. But a sort of innocence (I will think of a better word eventually) seems to me to also pervade the darker works, like Sarabande and Sweet Dreams (or, arguably, the darker sections of all of his works), which may also contain humor (Sarabande definitely does). Even in the serious moments in his ballets, I never feel as if catastrophe or even tragedy could happen. It's as if the people in his ballets have a god who they know will take care of them.

You were right to question my statement about form. I did not mean to talk about choreographic form; I should have written that the form of the body has a certain preciosity in Kylian's work. In most of his ballets, dancers are costumed minimally and delicately in ways that emphasize proportionality. Often, costumes (and I'm not sure who designs them-- does Kylian work with the same designer all the time?) look like undergarments, and so what you have onstage is people who are either freed from or stripped of their constraining clothes. I think this also contributes to my feeling that they seem innocent, or pure-- (they are like little children running around who don't care whether or not they are clothed).

BUT-- even when Kylian's people are undressed, they are not really animalistic or earthy. (Even in Road to the Stamping Ground I find a sort of "cleanness," but this can be easily argued against). I think this sort of denial of animalism is also what makes me agree with Sayers' "Christian" statement in that there is the idea that humanity is created in the form of the divine, rather than evolved from the animals.

Perhaps poorly put, but I hope I'm explaining myself a little. Thanks for making me think!

#8 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 27 May 2005 - 10:23 AM

Thanks for the explanation, Jonelle.

The interesting thing is some of what you say about Kylian is what I would think about Hans van Manen - although I'm not sure one could call him Christian. I had a really interesting conversation with a friend on van Manen a day or so ago; the thing that he responded to in van Manen was an almost 18th century tendency to catalogue things - he was thinking of the Marquis de Sade. It's a big jump, but from Grosse Fuge or Five Tangos, I knew what he meant, there's a sort of decadence that's intellectual rather than earthy.

I'm probably thinking more of van Manen because I have seen more of his work recently. What Kylian have you seen recently?

#9 jonellew

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Posted 27 May 2005 - 11:41 AM

I have not yet had the opportunity to become familiar with van Manen's work, but I am aware of the degree of his influence on Kylian. The conversation with your friend sounds like an interesting one, and I will remember your comments when I do get to see some van Manen.

I recently saw the Boston Ballet do Sarabande and Falling Angels, both of which were extremely well done, in my opinion, and true to the NDT performances of those ballets I've seen on DVD. Several years ago in Colorado I saw the National Ballet of Canada do Soldiers' Mass, which, as I remember, was moving (and I never use that word) even though the dancers were less than what I expected technically. The rest of what I've seen has been on video and DVD, and since our conversation, I'm looking through it all again.

#10 Sunpacy

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Posted 02 July 2005 - 09:16 AM

For fortunate ones who have had the possibility of seeing Jiri Kylianís choreography by NDT and us lesser mortals who saw the resent ABTís staging of Sinfonietta and Petit Mort, or the provincial crowd in Boston who are to see Sarabande and Falling Angels, I would like to pose a question: Do you view Jiri Kylian as a modern or a classical choreographer? Why?
If you consider the two categories as too restrictive, how would you characterize his work?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Kylian who is for me the choreographer of the XX century (I hope the Balanchineans don't kill me for saying this) goes beyond any dance format it's not a classical repertoire but it's not a modern. it is Just Kylian. A man who his dance vocabulary is so rich that so far isn't a style in which we can place it yet. Time will say what Kylian is. The same happended with Mozart in his time. Kylian isn't discover yet, historian will do.

#11 amitava

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Posted 10 July 2005 - 02:02 PM

He's a fusion choreographer.  Ballet trained, but not working (at least at present) in the ballet idiom.  I think it would be a major stretch to call him classical, he hasn't done a classical ballet in years (Maybe since Symphony in D?)

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I am not a dancer - nor a critic by any means, just a lay observer. So take my opinion with a sack of salt.

I got exposed to KyliŠn's work last year at Dance Salad in Houston. I saw 27í52, Birth-day, One of a Kind, and Blackbird. This was followed by Petit Mort in ABT's Texas tour last Fall. This year Dance Salad presented Double You. All were presented by a couple of dance companies (Kylian Foundation being the most prominent) from Europe, and trained first hand by Kylian. I got a brief moment with the dancer VŠclav Kunes, about how he trained for Double You, but did not drill him about KyliŠn. I think it is an interesting question as to how a choreographer sees themselves. I am sure it changes in time.. and the answer may depend on who is talking to him. I will make it a point to remember to ask that question of other choreographers when ever the appropriate opportunity/situation arises.

I would tend to agree with Leigh Witchel. As much as I enjoy and admire KyliŠn's works, I would say he is more contemporary than classical. Now I admit I have not seen the full body of his work. I visited the Prix De Lausanne web site and see that Kyliyan's works are a part of the repertoire for selection in the contemporary section for 2006 contestants. Perhaps all of us will get to see the interpretations by the different contestants on the web cast.

Kylian dark? Tough call. Yes some of his works that I have seen do seem dark, but that was bad lighting I think :D I have a dark personality, so probably don't see it! Just kidding. Seriously, some of his works do seem dark..but he seems to be contemplative, humorous, satirical, and serious as well.

Duatos' Remansos, Menís section and Por Vos Muero were also performed in Dance Salad this year. Duato on the other hand, I think, has a stronger classical feel in his works from the little that I have seen.

I am almost tempted to purchase the "Symphony in D Workshop Video", as I have not seen any of his "classical" works. In addition to rehearsals and a performance of the piece, Kylian talks about his role as a choreographer/dancer. Anyone seen that?

As to the comparisons to Christianity... hmm I have to let that thread go. As a heathen, my ignorance in such matters is best left unexplored.

#12 Joel

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Posted 21 July 2006 - 08:29 PM

There is so much to say about Jiri Kylian. Reading this thread it seems this choreographer isn't very well-known in the USA... This surprises me when I think of the praise the three NDT companies have enjoyed over the years in Europe and across the world, and the fact that so many companies now perform his pieces. Some of his disciples have created great choreographies (Nacho Duato, Paul Lightfoot...), the NDT companies are a unique structure, and he still has so much to offer!... His style has evolved a lot and covered many different grounds since the 70's. The neoclassical "Symphony in D" and "Sinfonietta" have very little in common with last year's "Sleepless" or "Chapeau", but it's easy to recognize his musicality, his sense of humanity and his humour. To me, Kylian's choreographies are never really dark because they're filled with spirituality....

#13 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 21 July 2006 - 08:59 PM

Joel - you're going to get a very specific viewpoint here because the mission statement of Ballet Talk is to concentrate on classical and neo-classical choreography rather than fusion work such as Kylian or Duato. He's well-known in North America but it isn't really the main subject of the board.

#14 Joel

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 07:59 PM

Leigh, your viewpoint is very specific indeed... My earlier post seems to have bothered you: I only wanted to share my thoughts on a thread entitled "Choreography of Jiri Kylian". Besides, I respect Ballet Talk's mission statement and honestly don't see why I shouldn't write on this board about a choreographer who has created famous neo-classical pieces, performed by many great ballet companies. "Sinfonietta", for example, is universally known as a neo-classical masterpiece. You may call Kylian a "fusion" choreographer -whatever that means- but he does deserve a place in the "main subject of the board".

#15 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 22 July 2006 - 08:33 PM

I apologize Joel, I wasn't trying to denigrate Kylian, merely to address this remark -

Reading this thread it seems this choreographer isn't very well-known in the USA...



He is well-known in the US, though less well known than choreographers more active in America. Using Ballet Talk as a measure of how well known he is will give a disproportionate response.


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